A Family Affair
Paul Johnson | 12 Jan 2013 12:45pm
MSTC brought a welcome touch of summer to a wet, dismal week with their lively staging of Alexander Ostrovsky’s satirical comedy.Bolshov, a prosperous merchant in Moscow, sets up a scam to cheat his creditors by declaring himself bankrupt and handing over all his wealth to Lazar, his trusted clerk, on a temporary basis. However, Lazar, rather takes to his new-found affluence, hangs on to the assets, marries Lipochka, Bolshov’s daughter and is happy to see his former boss languish in the debtor’s prison. Although written in the mid nineteenth century (when it was banned by the Russian censor for being scandalous and an insult to the merchant classes), A Family Affair, with its themes of corruption, greed and family infighting resonates as much in England in 2007 as it did in Moscow 150 years ago. Director, Adrian Washbourne and his team ensured that the action never flagged. The pace was near manic at times, yet always under control, even when an element of slapstick crept in. Hectic incidents were balanced by calmer episodes where the humour came from precisely timed and pointed one-liners.
Every actor drew out their character with well-observed mannerisms and body-language. Exchanges were sharp and pauses well-judged to get the best effect. The production left no doubt that it had been meticulously rehearsed. A Family Affair is, essentially, an ensemble piece. There was no weak link in the cast of eight but, inevitably, the script offered more scope to some players than to others. Helen Andrews (Bolshov’s social-climbing wife Agrafina) had a facial expression to reflect every situation but her accent always betrayed her character’s common upbringing. John Gargrave transformed Lazar from downtrodden assistant to masterful businessman as if he had a hidden agenda from the start. Ross Hodgkinson was flesh-creepingly obsequious as Rispolozhensky, the vodka-addled solicitor. Jenny Williams brought out Lipochka’s spoilt, self-centred nature. Pat Bittlestone, Abi Essex, Michael May and Mark Taylor made equally vital contributions. The full-house audience, seated on three sides of the acting area, had a perfect close up as the Bolshov family tore itself apart with relish.
- : user
- : 20/04/2007